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The Big Parade: Hiking Los Angeles

My hike, like a million other trips each day in Los Angeles, starts with a ride on a rumbling bus.In the heart of Los Angeles, a band of hikers starts a local-trails revolution--one step at a time.

We arrive at our campsite as darkness falls, which I suppose is more or less on schedule for a typical backpacking trip. Planning the parade, I was adamant that we sleep out in a public park. It would connect Saturday and Sunday, of course. But I also wanted official permission, which would mean the city perceived the event as legitimate, rather than an act of eccentricity. The bureaucrats seemed to understand, but making it happen was another thing. Finally, 18 hours before the start, I got permission (with the caveat that I rent an outhouse) for us to camp in a pocket-size park across from a flight of steps known as the Music Box Stairs.

This particular stairway was made famous by an Oscar-winning Laurel and Hardy short, called The Music Box, filmed there. In it, the comics struggle to hoist a piano to the top. The 133 steps sit almost exactly at the center of the two-day route, but more importantly, it is my staircase. I live three blocks away. And I knew that the comic connection would subtly but surely give a lift to sore, blistered hikers.

Also good for spirits: Urban campers can have burritos and margaritas at a Mexican restaurant. On Sunset Boulevard, we eat as mariachis serenade us.

Two hours later, we crawl into our tents. The night swells with salsa music from a nearby club, the growl of passing vehicles, and the voices of tipsy revelers (camping is a win for symbolism, not so much for sleeping). I’m surprised that not a single passerby notices the five tents pitched beneath the grassy triangle’s single tree. No one even approaches us until early the next morning. A dog walker, obviously in a state of disbelief, stares at our little encampment. I prepare my walkable-city-stairways-as-arteries-big-parade explanation. But after she ponders the sight for a few moments, she asks simply: “Are you German?”

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